Monday, 2 August 2010

Thoughts on a Hospital Stay

I've been lying here for a long time, so there have been lots of thoughts. This is the eleventh day, and as I haven't been able to sleep much of the time, that's equalled lots of potential thinking hours. I thought I'd collate them into a few points, rather than document each one. Some 4am musings shouldn't be shared!

1. Life is Fragile
I'm staying in a ward filled with patients fifty years my senior. I've felt really ill but still able to walk, shower, and pour myself a drink. Many of my fellow residents can't do these things. One or two of them are suffering from dementia, and don't know where they are. There have been screams through the night and a white haired lady wearing a padded red dressing gown regularly wanders into my room, offering nonsensical conversation starts. I've been in hospital for eleven days, and ill for a lot more, because I caught a bug from American waters. Just a quick trail of my fingers in lake water, paddle in a creek or swim in a lake caused this. We are brittle beings. Sure, we can withstand a lot, but at the same time, it doesn't take a great deal to break the health that we rely on. Even those who are tougher than me, and not susceptible to evil water borne germs right now, may eventually be like red padded dressing gown lady, or perhaps a blue male equivalent. The experience has made me want to prolong my health and relative youth for as long as possible. I'm usually a pretty healthy person but perhaps with more super foods, more water drinking, and more exercise, this can be improved, helping me to fight off foreign microbes more effectively, and avoiding becoming a long term hospital patient in old age. This also links to my recently developed philosophy for life, which is to fulfill the responsibility of youth. I think that all of us who can, should follow our hearts and passions whilst we're able to - we owe it to our future selves and we owe it to the red padded dressing gown wearing Marges of the world.

2. Remote Control Beds are Awesome
Right now, I've raised the back to support me whilst sitting up to type. I prefer a sort of semi-lounge position for watching films and Sherlock, and a slight tilt to the pillow area for sleeping. Lots of fun can be had raising the entire bed, lifting the occupant (me) to 5ft up in the air, as my sister proved during one visit.

3. Nursing Staff are mostly Lovely
It's something of a cliche to say, but I genuinely wouldn't want to do the job of a nurse. They seem to rise above the gross-out and patience factors inevitably present when caring for people,  perhaps particularly the elderly, and still have time for chats and smiles and caring touches. This is no fairytale however, I've encountered a couple of biatches, but there are horrible people within every profession. Thankfully the majority are lovely, and soften the edges of a difficult hospital stay.

4. Dedicated Music Time
Rarely in day to day life do I get time to focus completely upon a love of my life, music. With nowhere to go apart from my small room, I can pretty much only sit on my bed and seek static entertainment. Music investigation is perfect. I'm lucky enough to have a working TV in my room, which I've tuned into 6music, and I simultaneously Spotify, looking up artists and bands, letting one find lead to another. I'm at my happiest when musical loves are in my life, so despite the illness and surroundings, I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to find some amazing new music. I'll use a separate blog post to list them all - there are a lot!

5. Invisibility
When spending time in hospital, it's as though you cease to exist to the wider world. On a day to day basis we encounter lots of strangers - whether in a bar, gym, shop or park. Whilst permanently positioned in one room you've been removed from this type of social contact. Regardless of whether you talk to said strangers, just being in their presence and feeling part of a community or city is something we can take for granted. I particularly found my hospital invisibility difficult this weekend, when I imagined the Saturday night fun I supposed everybody but me was experiencing. Twitter and text and e-mail and radio and TV are fine used in small doses, complementing actual, real contact, but when that's not possible, these forms of communication with the outside world become invaluable to make you feel you're still on the radar. I'm grateful to everyone who visited and rang and texted and tweeted at me, they may not have realised it, but they made me feel visible again.

6. Suffering
Compared to the awful health conditions and natural disasters and tragedies experienced by people across the world, my teeny tiny eleven days in hospital are the suffering equivalent of a cupcake and champagne picnic in the park. But within the context of my relatively healthy, pain free twenty nine years, I felt I was really suffering at points during this illness. Unless we experience some form of suffering ourselves, I think it is easy to feel detached from the suffering experienced by others, and go about our own lives oblivious, or choosing to ignore what's happening. I feel more conscious of this thanks to my experience, and will do more to help other people as a result.

7. Hospital Food reminds me of the 1980s
My parents were young and didn't have much money, so they fed my sister and I big and they fed us cheap. Liver and onions, corned beef hash, boil in the bag fish. All these delights are available in Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil in 2010. I'm not complaining, I've opted for the salad choices, my food is brought to me on a tray, and I haven't done any washing up for eleven days. But the 1980s menu options make me smile and remind me of  childhood dinners of old.

8. Ribena Overdose
I have drunk more Ribena and cranberry juice during these eleven days than the rest of my life put together.

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